Useful ID Tips

Analytical Design

Being able to analyze and then communicate data effectively can be a challenge.  Listed below are a few of Tufte’s tips on analytical design:

  • Show comparisons – the reader needs to see relevant data in order to draw conclusions.
  • Show causality – to produce the desired effect, we need to show the cause.
  • Show multi-variant data (more than three variables)
  • Completely integrate words, images and numbers (try to keep them on one page; don’t separate)
  • Document everything and tell people about it – readers are skeptical when they don’t see a source (builds credibility with integrity of sources; build sources into the document itself rather than at the end of the document).
  • Presentations largely stand or fall on the integrity, quality, and relevance of content; Design can not salvage failed content.
  • Show information adjacent to space (don’t force the reader to flip pages; keep relevant data together)
  • Use small multiples (help deflect suspicions of “cherry picking”)
  • Put everything on a universal grid.
  • Maximize content reasoning time and minimize design “figuring out” time (avoid delays like legends, instead label data on the lines/bars)


Listed below are some tips on presenting to an audience that I learned during one of Tufte’s seminars.  Tufte believes audience handouts are a good thing; and that they should be given out in advance.  He feels it’s good when people read the handouts during the presentation because it enforces the speaker’s message.  Through the handouts, the information in the presentation is able to “live on”.  Others argue that handouts should be provided to the audience after the presentation so that they do not act as a distraction.

General tips on presentation format and speaker techniques:

  • An effective presentation should state the problem, show relevance, and provide a solution.  The audience should be told this information upfront as it guides them through the presentation.
  • The quality and relevance of content will make or break the presentation.
  • Arrive early allowing yourself time to get comfortable with the venue.
  • Never apologize at the beginning of the speech.  For example, if the presentation begins late, don’t apologize, address the situation in a different way.
  • Avoid slogans and acronyms.
  • Be consistent.
  • The audience demands respect…give it to them!
  • Know your content and respect your audience.
  • Humor is helpful and makes it memorable, but not too much; be sure not to offend.
  • Don’t hide behind the “bullet proof” podium; get out from behind it, prove you believe what you’re saying.
  • Practice, practice, practice !!!
  • And always…finish early (makes the audience happy)!
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